Two Centuries of Black American Art, LACMA 1976, PB, Very Good

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Driskell, David. New York: Alfred A. Knopf in association with Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1976.  Very Good   4to, 11” x 8 1/2” 221 pp.
ISBN: 0875870708

Very Good First Edition exhibition catalog with terra cotta wraps, white titling to front and spine, reproduction of 'Building More Stately Mansions' by Aaron Douglas on front panel. Some edge wear at head and foot, print flaw (wrap cut 1 mm short of text block, visible in photo), creased front bottom tip, otherwise glossy, clean interior, tight binding, pristine. Catalog notes by Leonard Simon, 221 pp., including selected bibliography, index of artists, and photography credits.

Curator, artist, historian, writer, and advocate David C. Driskell (1931-2020), was responsible for the first large-scale retrospect on African American Fine Art in American history, featuring 200 works and 63 artists. This show, which was met with much resistance from the establishment, first opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, then traveled to Dallas, Atlanta, and New York. The show broke records for attendance.

Driskell’s careful curation included painting, sculpture, drawing, graphics, crafts, and decorative arts, and told a true story that had been excluded from the American narrative. In the text, he explains the relationship between craftsmanship and survival that dates back to slavery, and how often apprenticeship was a handing down of African-derived imagery that embedded itself in the collective Black consciousness. It’s a story about the creative process itself; a way of life, a form of activism, a reversal of toxic representation. This show revealed classical professional artists who had mastered portraiture and landscapes, like Robert S. Duncanson and Henry O. Tanner who might have otherwise been lost to history. Images include William Artis, Charles White, Robert S. Duncanson. A critical piece of African American art history. 

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